He wasn’t bothered by the trade rumors this winter. He wasn’t bitter after going through the arbitration process and emerging on the losing side.
Let’s start with the interest from other teams, with a source confirming talks between the Orioles and Marlins.
Santander didn’t become preoccupied with the reports or speculate whether he might never make it to Sarasota, Fla.
“I heard rumors, but that didn’t take away from the time that I spent on concentrating on my body, concentrating on my game, working on my skills and getting ready for spring training and being here,” Santander said this afternoon via translator Ramón Alarcón during his Zoom call.
Santander received a hefty raise from the $572,500 he was set to earn last year before the pandemic to the $2.1 million awarded to him. But he received the club’s figure rather than his $2,475,000 request.
“This is really a business,” Santander said. “They’re trying to do their job, my agent is trying to do his job. That didn’t take away from the focus of me being ready for spring training, being in good shape, which is my main goal.”
Two consecutive Septembers proceeded without Santander due to injury, including a strained oblique last summer that didn’t prevent him from being chosen Most Valuable Oriole.
“My main goal is to be healthy,” he said. “I think if I’m healthy, I’m able to help my team to win as many games as possible. That is really what I want to do. I had a good offseason and prepared myself for 162 games and I’m ready for it.”
Santander said it took six weeks for the oblique to heal and four more weeks to compete a rehab period.
“I started working on my flexibility, my mobility and I think it really paid off,” Santander said. “I feel in great shape and ready for 162 games.”
Santander is expected to remain in right field, where he was a Gold Glove finalist in 37 games.
“I attribute that to working on a daily basis with my coach every single day in trying to improve my overall defense,” he said. “I was focused on improving my first steps and also maintain my speed. Even though I’m not the fastest guy out there, I take pride throughout my career to try to keep the same speed I had years ago
“Working hard, study the hitters also and working with my coach.”
Santander has posted the same .261 average the last two seasons and his slugging percentage in a much smaller sample rose from .476 to .575. However, his on-base percentage rose only from .297 to .315 and remains a weakness on the offensive side.
“There are always things to improve in this game,” he said. “This is an adjustment game, and every day, little by little, I try to improve and make adjustments to my overall game. I really want to improve my discipline at the plate, swinging at strikes and not at bad pitches. Not at balls outside the zone or balls in the dirt. If I’m able to do that, I think I’ll become a more dangerous hitter and a better player all around.”
Said manager Brandon Hyde: “It’s something we talked to Tony about the last couple years. I thought he made big strides last year. His first year with me I thought there were a lot of chases down below the zone on off-speed. I thought he did a better job of laying off those in two-strike counts. But that’s the next step for Tony is to be able to shrink the strike zone a little bit and do so much damage on strikes.
“He’s got line-to-line power from both sides of the plate, hits the ball so hard. If he can just continue to improve his swing decisions, he could have a really good year and a really good career.”
Notes: Shortstop Richie Martin his rehabbing from hamate bone surgery at Twin Lakes Park and should begin his hitting progression in the next week or two.
“Doing well,” Hyde said.
Pitching prospect Michael Baumann, expected to join Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation in April, impressed today in a live batting practice session.
“He’s got an electric arm,” Hyde said. “Ball really comes out of his hand. It’s a big presence on the mound. It’s what it looks like. I was real impressed with his live BP just from a stuff standpoint. Threw some good sliders, hides the ball from the hitter. The ball really gets on hitters. And the delivery is from a tough angle, so the hitters don’t quite pick it up.
“Big body guy that’s got a lot of velo, so excited about him going forward.”
Hyde said he still believes in reliever Cole Sulser’s stuff and the right-hander, who lost the closer’s job, will have an opportunity to head north with the team.
Sulser is concentrating on his breaking ball to complement his fastball and split-change and better defend himself against right-handed hitters.
Austin Hays, who could play all three spots in the outfield this year, talked about the impressive group of pitchers that he faced today in live BP.
“it was pretty much our bullpen from last year,” he said. “We got to see Paul Fry, Tanner Scott and Sulser was in that mix. And Hunter Harvey also. Tanner was doing this thing, like at 97 or 98 (mph). Fry was throwing his slider. Those guys were mixing it up really well. We didn’t get a whole lot to hit today. Hunter was up there slinging it.
“Good to compete against some good, live arms. Hadn’t seen live pitching in a while. It’s good to face those arms now and just get us ready for the games.”
A couple of catchers moved over from the Twin Lakes Park side to Ed Smith Stadium for the start of live batting practice. There will be more traffic headed both ways.
“We’re going to have guys go back and forth a little bit,” Hyde said. “We’re in a unique situation here. Most teams are all in one facility and kind of spread out in one big facility. We have two and limited locker space here and limited locker space there. You’re going to see some of the young pitchers come over here, you’re going to see some of those young infielders come over.”